"Apnea" means not breathing. "Prematurity" is when a baby is born too early. Apnea of prematurity is when a premature baby stops breathing for short periods. These pauses in breathing last 20 seconds or more and happen over and over.
Apnea of prematurity usually happens when the part of your baby’s brain that controls breathing isn't fully developed
About 1 in 4 premature babies get it
The apnea happens less often over weeks and months as your baby's brain develops
Restart breathing by gently touching your baby
Sometimes doctors use caffeine, or a CPAP machine or ventilator, to help with breathing
Causes of apnea of prematurity include:
These problems go away as your baby gets older and the brain and muscles develop.
You and your doctors can see the breathing pauses. Your baby may also wear a monitor that sets off an alarm if they stop breathing.
Doctors may do tests to be sure the apnea isn't caused by another health problem. They may do:
Doctors treat any problems causing the apnea.
During a breathing pause, doctors will have you gently touch your baby to help restart breathing.
If your baby's apnea happens a lot:
Your baby may need to be in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit)
Doctors may give your baby caffeine, which stimulates breathing
Just like other babies, babies with apnea of prematurity should sleep on their back and not their tummy. Your doctor will check to make sure your baby can safely ride in a car seat.